February 20, 2023
min read

5 Important Lessons Every Woman Needs To Unlearn

The truth is that as women, we internalize lessons we’ve picked up - both implicitly and explicitly - that need to be unlearned. Lessons that are vestiges of a more naive version of ourselves that no longer exist. Lessons that become outdated us as we grow up from being girls, who are learning to survive in a patriarchal society, to women, who are rising to the top of one. 

But the hardest part of success isn’t just rising to the top. It’s keeping the most important parts of yourself along the way. 

After all, it’s the little things we do to get our foot in the door that become the things that make us unrecognizable to ourselves years later. 

It’s the little lessons we learn along the way to make things easier day to day - learning to keep everyone happy, soothe egos, and say “sorry” excessively - that chip away at the parts of ourselves that were empowered enough to begin the journey in the first place.

And it’s important to keep all those parts of ourselves. Why? Because what’s the point of finally earning a seat at the table if we do so by losing all the wonderful parts of ourselves that only women can bring to the table?

Throughout history, and still now, women were few and far between in positions of success and power. But we’re entering a different era; where power is being redefined and women certainly have more of a voice than ever. 

And so, we have a responsibility to use our power do only what women can do and to use our voice to say what only women can say - despite who we’ll make uncomfortable by doing so. 

And to do so, we need to unlearn the lessons that have held us back. 

Not because you’ll be a fiercely strong woman once you do, but because you already are; so imagine who you’ll be when you do. 

Lesson To Unlearn #1: We can take care of our needs when we’ve taken care of everyone else’s.

The truth? It’s okay to say “I’m more important right now”. 

You don’t exist to serve everyone else’s needs.

The lines between generosity and martyrdom, modesty and meekness, humility and self-hatred, are thin ones. Just because it’s hard to see your own needs to be as important as everyone else’s doesn’t mean they aren’t. 

When we get used to putting everyone else around us first, they get used to it too. We’ll never keep everyone happy and we’ll never take care of everyone’s needs, and so we always have an excuse to never to get to our own. Years of this, and we forget that we had or deserve to have needs in the first place. 

Remember the oxygen mask analogy? You can’t take care of anyone else if you’re drowning and suffocating. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then everyone else. Take care of your own needs first; then you can help others better. 

Lesson To Unlearn #2: There’s only one definition of strength, power & success

The truth? Strength, power & success look different on and for women.

The traditional image of strength, power, and success is definitively masculine. It’s about victory through aggression and conflict. It emerges with the image of a singular hero who knew what to do every step of the way, never wavered in his confidence, and carried the rest of the team on his back. 

Maybe we can change that.

Maybe strength isn’t carrying everyone on your back and having all the right answers. Maybe it’s having the strength to cry alongside them, put your ego aside, and have the courage to sit in the uncertainty.

Maybe power isn’t barking out orders, instilling fear, and bending people to your will. Maybe it’s empowering others to make their own decision to choose to follow you.

And maybe success isn’t money, awards, and titles. Maybe it’s looking around when the chips are down and you don’t think you have it in you, to see that you have people who’ll stay in your corner to take their turns lifting you up. 

Lesson To Unlearn #3: Learn to avoid conflict and never be an inconvenience

The truth? You don’t exist to unobtrusive, to be convenient, or to be “easy to deal with”.

I once read about an experiment. It was a simple one. A woman walked down the street, and simply didn’t out of men’s ways. The result? A hell of a lot of collisions. 

We don’t exist to bend and contort ourselves to keep the peace. Sometimes we’re not the ones who need to apologize just because there’s conflict (or because we’ve body-slammed someone on the street). And just because our existence makes others uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we need to apologize for it.  

Sometimes you don’t need to be the one to get out of the way.

Lesson To Unlearn #4: You’ll deserve respect when you do everything right.

The truth? You don’t need to be perfect to be respected.

And similarly, just because you’ve made a mistake doesn’t mean they get to be an asshole.

Because the underlying message of this lesson is this: You’re so fundamentally flawed and so undeserving of respect that if you’re perfect, and only then, may you be deserving of the respect you so deeply crave. 

And we all know that just isn’t true. 

The golden rule is to treat other the way you’d want to be treated. But sometimes the reminder we really need is to treat ourselves the way you treat others.

Lesson To Unlearn #5: You need men to succeed

The truth? Life is better when you surround yourself with other women. 

Not _only_ women; just _more_ women. 

If you’re in business, sports, and really most achievement-oriented industries, it’s easier to find yourself surrounded by men- as coworkers, bosses, coaches, mentors, teammates, friends, and role models. 

As much as I’ve craved the company of women, men were, at the very least, predictable and understandable. Or, more simply put - as a woman who grew up in competitive environments, it was familiar. 

But the last few years, I’ve found myself surrounded by women both personally and professionally. It has been wonderful. It has also been uncomfortable and endlessly challenging.

Because when you’re surrounded by women, all the scripts on acceptable behaviour and all the stories we tell ourselves to keep ourselves in place get thrown out. And you have no choice but to reclaim your voice and stand empowered. But you’ll certainly be better for it. 



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